Congressional Term Limits

[cref congressional-term-limits Reposted] by request from November 2006…

I think it’s time to discuss congressional term limits once again.

There are way too many old fossils in the House and in the Senate in both* parties.

Terms were set by the Founders at two years for the House and six years for the Senate for some very good reasons.

The Founders wanted to minimize the disruption to a person’s life and livelihood while he (or she) served the people in the House of Representatives. They didn’t set a limit on the number of terms, but expected that citizen representatives would serve a term or two and go back to their regular lives.

The Senators were appointed by the states until 1913 when the 17th Amendment instituted direct election of Senators. The term has always been six years. This ensured some continuity. Each state had four continuous years of the same two Senators (barring death, impeachment, or resignation) and each Senator had six continuous years (to go with the two years for each House Representative).

The Twentieth Century brought with it career politicians. Gerrymandering districts aided re-election of incumbents. No one in Congress wants to give up their perks.

This is my new idea. Term limits, but they are only continuous.

It would work this way: A member could serve in the House of Representatives for no more than six continuous terms (12 years). Then he or she would be required to take at least one term off, at which point the (former) member could run for the post again.

In the Senate, the same 12 years would apply, but in this case it would be two continuous terms and he or she would have to take a break. The (former) Senator would have to take the entire six year term off – no fair running for the other Senator’s seat when it may come up…

Just my opinion, but getting some new blood in the House and Senate may help real things get done. Ethically it may help as well. If you can’t promise more than 12 years out…

Then, of course, there’s my wish that for every new law an old, obsolete law is actually repealed and taken off the books, but that’s another story…


Added February 2009…

Currently the succession for the Presidency is:

1. VP Joe Biden (served 6 [36 years] terms – would have started 7th if not VP)
2. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (currently serving her 11th term [20 years+])
3. Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (91 years old – currently serving his 9th term – over 50 years in the Senate!)

According to Wikipedia (with all due caution) the top 3 (in years) for both House and Senate are as follows (Biden used to be 4th…):

*currently all the top fossils are in the Democrat party.

Senate House
Name Year Name Year
Robert Byrd (D-WV) 50+ John Dingell (D-MI) 53+
Ted Kennedy (D-MA) 46+ John Conyers (D-MI) 44+
Daniel Inouye (D-HI) 46+ David Obey (D-WI) 39+

Charlie Rangel (D-NY 38+ years = 19+ terms!) and Pete Stark (D-CA – 36+ years = 18+ terms!) round out the top 5 in the House. The list at Wikipedia lists all longtime congresscritters, not just the incumbent ones, and the Senate list only had 3 incumbents on it.

When our state and federal representatives make the laws that govern their districts’ composition and make laws that favor incumbency, it’s hard to see that there’s any Hope ™ for Change ™ at all, at all.

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